Secular Jinnah & Pakistan by Saleena Karim

Review Article

Dr. Jaferhussein Ismail Laliwala, economist, Gujarat


Saleena Karim's book Secular Jinnah & Pakistan has appeared at the right time when Pakistan is under turmoil and there is an Arab uprising also in most of the Arab Muslim countries demanding real democracy against nefarious dictatorship and specifically insisting that democracy should work for the welfare of the common people and not for one percent of the people against 99 persent of the people. This is also the demand of the American common people as manifested by the demonstrators sitting in Time Square in New York City of USA. All Muslims - majority counries are in terrible confusion of thought regarding the meaning of Islam, democracy, secularism and the relationship bewteen reason and Revelation.

In this book, she has discussed two main points: (1) why a separate State of Pakistan was demanded in the Indian subcontinent and (2) the second is the attempt to clarify the ideology of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Dr. Mohammad Iqbal which again was or should be the ideology of the state of Pakistan.

Both these questions are inter-related, but I do not discuss here the first question as to why a separate State of Pakistan was thought to be necessary because the separate State of Pakistan has already come into existence since long. So, the question is what was the ideology on which the State of Pakistan was expected by Jinnah and Iqbal to function. Saleena karim has done full justice in terms of deep research & hardwork in answering both the questions. But however, I restrict myself to the discussion of the second one, namely the concept of the ideology of the state in which Muslims are in majority. This is because what should be true for Pakistan, may be or should be true for other Muslim- majority countries also.


In the Preface of her book, Saleena has formulated the second question very correctly with the following words:

"Focusing as we are on Jinnah's political career, this book addresses the issue of whether he had a secular or a religious vision for Pakistan, or perhaps something else. Historians & other commentators outside of Pakistan have traditionally placed Jinnah in the secular category. Pakistani commentators meanwhile generally place him in one of the three polictical categories:

  • i. the secularist ( materalist );
    ii. the religionist ( orthodox Muslim ) ; or
    iii.the modernist ( liberal Muslim )

"The reason is obvious: Pakistan as a country has yet to find its place in the world, and Jinnah was its founder. Logically, we assume that if we can reach a consensus on Jinnah's thought, then we can also reslove the long standing question of what kind of state Pakistan was meant to be, and thus how it should develop today. Pakistanis are tired of self-serving politicians, landlordism, nepotism, the rise of religious fundamentalism, corruption, economic instability & the same predictable cycle between incompetent bureaucratic [regimes] and military regimes. Hence, for Pakistanis more than any one else, the debate over Jinnah is a highly emotive subject, and at its heart is a battle of ideas. Pakistanis are really trying to work out something much bigger than just Jinnah's place in history, They are trying to find their own historical identity as well."

Nobody would place Jinnah in the religionist category which implies theocracy and it also leads to sectarianism. Jinnah was a liberal Muslim and hence he was a secularist also, but he was not a secularist of a materialist type and his secularism and liberalism and pluralism emanated from his spiritual values of Freedom, Equality, Justice, Fairplay
and Brotherhood which are also the universal principles of Islam. He believed in one Supreme God and one mankind without any distinction of high and low and without any discrimination among human beings on the basis of religion, caste, creed, race or colour. All are equal citzens in the world-polity under the stewardship and supervision of one God.

it should be noted that "secularism" has got two broad meanings - one is secularist, i.e. materialist, dealing with the profane world only which is considered to be without spiritual basis or without any spirtual element. The other meaning of secularism is neutralism of the State towards all religion and therefore it will not adopt any particular religion as state religion. But, it does not mean that the state will not adopt the humanist values of freedom Equality and Justice. On the contrary, a Muslim majority state particularly guided by Jinnah and Iqbal must adopt these humanist values, because in Islam as envisaged in the Quran requires that State and Society must try to imbibe these values (of Freedom, Equality, Justice, Secularism and Brotherhood) not only in thought but lso in social practice. But, it has not been done so, which is a real tragedy.

The question is why it happened other than what was expected. Let us first mention here some excerpts from M A Jinnah's presidential speech delivered on 11 August 1947 in the Consituent Assembly of Pakistan. He announced:

"You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do withe business of the state (Hear,hear) - We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed or another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state (Loud Applause). Now, I think you should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in [the] the course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would be cease to be Muslims, not in the religion sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state."

Thus, it seems that Mr. Jinnah is a perfect secularist, but not the materialist type of a secularist, i.e. in the first sense of the term, but in the second sense of the term, i.e. the State may not formally adopt any particular religion as the state religion, but at the same time, adopting all the values of Islam namely Freedom, Equality, Justice and solidiarity. Here the source of inspiration for these values is important which is Islam, but it may not be mentioned in the constitution. So, out of the three political catefgories in one of which Mr. Jinnah can be placed, the first two i.e. (1) the secularist (materialist ) and (2) the (religionist orthodox Muslims) are ruled out and even the 3rd category of the modernist (liberal Muslims ) can be further sub-divided into two categories, according to Saleena karim . She writes about this important point as follows in her preface:

"Hence , we can clearly distinguish between these two categories of thought [as mentioned above], but the modernist category - lying sonewhere in the middle - is relatively misunderstood. There are actually two sub-categories of what may be termed 'modernist': (a) one conceives the state in terms of s secular-Islam synthesis, taking some values from traditional Islam and reconciling them with modern ideas on law, economics and the state (b) the other rejects not only theocracy and secular materialism, but 'synthesis' as well, since this idea is ultimately incompatible with the Islamic worldviews as derived from the principle of Tauheed [Unity of God]. This group treats secular-Islam as a hybrid between conflicting ideas and seeks an 'Islamic state' which is neither religious, nor materialist, nor secular-Muslim. Jinnah best fits the latter of these [two] sub- categories."

Saleena Karim points out that though Mr. Jinnah might not have described the State of Pakistan as an Islamic State in his Presidential address in the Constituent Assembly of Paistan delivered on 11 August 1947, in other speeches Mr. Jinnah has described Pakistan as as Islamic State. This is a very important point which she discusses throughout her book and therfore it needs more clarification and some subtle philosophical discussion.

Before the creation of Pakistan and after its creation, Jinnah talked about the state of Pakistan to be based on the universal principles of Islam. Generally Jinnah preferred the use of the words 'principles of Islam' rather than the word 'Islam' only which is significant. As for example in the year 1943, Mr. Jinnah delivering his lecture at Ismail Yusuf College, Bombay, said the following:

In Pakistan , we shall have a state which will be run according to the principles of Islam. It will have its cultural, political and economical structure based on the principles of Islam. The non- Muslims need not fear because of this, for fullest justice will be done to them, [and] they will have their full cultural, religious, political and economic rights safeguarded. As a matter of fact, they will be more safeguarded than in the present-day so callled democratic parliamentary form of Government."

He emphasized principles of Islam rather than Islam (as traditionally understood). Here it seems that Mr. Jinnah makes a distinction between Islam and the Muslim community. By Islam, he means the principles of Islam which are universal and are to be applied to Muslims as well as non-Muslims equally, and as citizens they all will have equal rights. In the present times, most Muslims are Muslims because they are born in Muslim families and non -Muslims are also born non-Muslims , because they are born in respective non- Muslim families. But the principles of Islam are universal and these principles are freedom, equality, justice, brotherhod and fairplay which are to be followed in individual lives and also imbibed in the social, economic, and political structure of the society in all countries. Specially Muslim-majority countries are expected to follow these principles in a non-discriminating way seriously and sincerely as it is enjoined in Quran.

Dr. Mohammed Iqbal, in his epoch-making book Reconstruction of Religius Thought in Islam clarified the true approach of Islam towards these burning questions in the following words:

"In Islam, the spiritual and the temporal are not two distinct domains, and the nature of an act, however, secular in its import, is determined by the attitude of mind with which the agent does it. It is the invisible mental background of the act which ultimately determines its character.

"Islam is a single unanalysable reality which is one or the other as your point of view varies. Suffice it to say that this ancient mistake arose out of the bifurcation of the unity of man into two distinct and separate realities whcih somehow have a contact, but which are in essence opposed to each other [according to them] *

"The truth, however, is that matter is spirit in space time reference [i.e. spirit looks to be matter in space-time reference]. The unity called man is body when you look at it as acting in regard to what we call the external world, it is mind or soul when you look at it as acting.

The essence of 'Tauhid [Unity of God in the sense of the whole universe as existing in God and God's creation being the self of God's expresion in the form of sub-egoes in their increasing degrees of egohood and culmination in the connscious egohood of Man] as a working idea is equality, solidarity and freedom. The State, from the Islamic standpoint, is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realize them in a difinite human organization. It is in this sense alone that the State in Islam is [may be] called a theocracy, not in the sense that it is headed by a representaititive of God on earth who can always screen his despotic will behind his supposed infallibility. The critics of Islam have lost sight of this important cnsideration. The ultimate Reality according to the Quran, is spiritual and its life consists in its temporal activity. The spirit finds its opportunities in the natural, the material, the secular. All that is secular is therefore sacred in the roots of its being. The greatest service the modern science has rendered to Islam, and as a matter of fact, to all religions consists in its criticism of what we call material or natural - a criticism which discloses that the merely material has no substance until we discover it rooted in th spiritual. There is no such thing as a profane world. All this immensity of matter constitutes a scope for the self-realization of Spirit - All is holy ground. As the Prophet so beautiflly puts it : " The whole of this earth is a mosque " . The State, according to Islam is only an effort to realize the spiritual in a human organization. But in this sense, all State, not based on mere domination and ( actually ) aiming at the realization of ideal principles, is theocratic" (pp 154, 155).

[* The words in [brackets] written in this quotaton from Iqbal's book, have been introduced by the writer of this review article.]

Mr. Jinnah had similar views as Dr. Iqbal had regarding the relationship between religion on the one hand and one's social, political and economic activities on the other. Iqbal combined science, metaphysics and religion in expressing his view point while Jinnah expressed the same view point, but in a simple philosophical form. As for example, Mr. Jinnah in his letter to Gandhiji on 21st January, 1940, wrote to him as follows:

"Today you deny that religion can be a main factor in determining a nation, but you yourself, when asked wht your moti8v e in life was, "the thing that leads us to do what we do", whether it was religious, social or political, said : "Purely religious". This was the question asked of me by the late Mr. Montagu [Secretary of State of India on behalf of the Government of U.K.] when I accompanied a deputation which was purely political. "How you, social reformer", he exclaimed, "have found your way into this crowd?" My reply was that it was only an extension of my social activity. I could not be leading a religious life unless I took part in polictics. The gamut of man's activities today constututes an indivisible whole. You cannot divide social, economic, political and purely religious work into watertight compartments. I do not know any religion apart from human activity. It provides a moral basis to all other activities which they would otherwise lack, reducing life to a maze of "sound and fury signifying nothing"."

These views of Mr. Jinnah though expressed in the year 1940 in his letter to Gandhiji, but must be the part of his world view even before 1918, as theMontagu-Chemsford Report on Indian Constituational Reforms appeared in 1918 and Jinnah might have probably seen Montagu to discuss the Indian Constituational Reforms as a member of
Indian delegation even before 1918 or in 1918.

This shows that Jinnah and Iqbal had similar world views and both emphasized the spirit and the universal principles of Islam like freedom, justice, fairpay, equality and brotherhood. They came to these views independently of each other and then cooperated with each other in the realization of these values in individual life and social practice.

What Jinnah meant by Islam, and hence princlples of Islam becomes clearer by taking into account his two more speeches - one before thecreation of Pakistan and the other one after its creation. Mr. Jinnah in his Presidential address of the All India Muslim League Sesssion in April 1943, said:

"Here I should like to give a warning to the landlords and capitalists who have flourished at our expense by a system which is so vicious which is wicked and which makes them so selfish that it is difficult to reason with them. The exploitation of the masses has gone into their blood. They have forgotten the lesson of Islam. Greed and selfishness have made these people subordinate to the interests of others in order to fatten themselves. It is true that we are not in power today. You go any where to the country side. I have visited some villages. There are millions and millions of our people who hardly get one meal a day. Is this civilization? Is this the aim of Pakistan ? Do you visualize that millions have been exploited and cannot get one meal a day! If that is the idea of Pakistan, I would not have it. If they [landlords and capitalists] are wise, they will have to adjust themselves to the new modern conditions of life. If they do not, God help them, we shall not help them. Therefore, let us have faith in ourselves. Let us not falter or hesitate. That is our goal. We are going to achieve it. The constitution of Pakistan can only be framed by the Millat and the people."

Jinnah died on 11th September, 1948. But even on First July, 1948. i.e. only two months before his demise, Jinnah, despite his fast deteriorating health, he decided to attend the opening ceremony of the State Bank of Pakistan (central bank of the country), Karachi and on this occasion of declaration of economic sovereignty, he declared:

"I shall watch with keenness the work of your Research Organization in evolving banking practices compatible with Islamic ideals of social and economic life. The economic sysem of the West has created almost insoluble problems for humanity and to many of us, it appears that only a miracle can save it from [the] disaster that is now facing the world. It has failed to do justice between man and man and to eradicate friction from the international field. On the contrary, it was largely responsible for the two world wars in the last half century. The Western world, inspite of its advantages of mechanization and industrial efficiency, is today in a worse mess than ever before in history. The adoption of Western economic theory and practice will not help us in achieving our goal of creating a happy and contented people. We must work out our destiny in our own way and present to the world economic system based on [the] true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice. We will thereby be fulfilling our mission as Muslims and giving to humanity the message of peace, which alone can save it and secure the welfare, happiness and prosperity of mankind."

I think this is enough to clarify the meaning of the principles of Islam as Jinnah understood them. Hence, let us now come to the understanding of the Objectives Resolution that the Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan submitted in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan which passed it on 12th March, 1949. The constitution was to be based on this Resolution. So, it may be considered as the Preamble of the Constitution.

The Objectives Resolution begins to read in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is an excellent and very proper beginning.

In this Resolution, there is the mentioning of the sovereignty of God and the representatives of the people are expected to exercise this authority of behalf of God within limits prescribed by him as a sacred trust. It is also mentiond that Muslims will be following individually and collectivelty the teachings of Islam as enunciated in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. These are very noble sentiments. Now the sacred trust of God is given in Quran and illustrated through Sunnah of the Prophet. Thus, they will apply to all the people of Pakistan irrespective of their religion or creed . But Shias and Sunnis quote conflicting Ahadis and Sunnah, and among Shias and Sunnis there are their own respective different schools of thought which quote mutually conflicting Ahadis and interpret the verse and words of Quran in not only different but actually in conflicting ways. Also some of the Ulemas who have got the degree of Alim and that of Mufti would argue that Islam is their subject only and people who have not got these degrees of Madarasahs (Madaris ) have no right to talk about Islam. Also, their conflicting judgements are to be acceptable as final, as if from God. Thus, some of the Ulema would not allow the principles of freedom, democracy, equality, tolerance and social justice (which are the principles of Islam) to operate in practice.

So, the question arises whether the gist of Mr. Jinnah's Presidential speech delivered on 11 August 1947 in the Constitution Assembly of Pakistan is to be taken as Preamable for the Constitution of Pakistan or the Objective Resolution as submitted by Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan is to be taken as the Preamable of the Constitution of Pakistan.

In Jinnah's speech in the Constitution Assembly of Pakistan, there is no mention of God, Quran or Sunnah though Jinnah firmly believed in them all (just as we as Muslims believe in them all), as it is evident from his other speeches. But he, perhaps, deliberately avoided to mention the in his speech in the Constitution Assembly, because he was perhaps afraid that if he did so, then Ulema would take over everything and there being different firmly held opinions of different sects of Islam, some of their Uema would create a sort of mini civil war among different factions of Islam and the State of pakistan would land in crisis. Elected representatives of the people of the Constitutent Assembly and then the Parliament would be pushed and brushed aside and self-appointed Ulema would take over hold in all walks of life leading to violent sectariaism, and the worst type of overall totalitarianism in societ . Democracy, freedom of thought, tolerance, socialism, rule of law, justice, equality, brotherhood and fairplay which are the universal principles of Islam as broadly prescribed in the Quran and practised by the Prophet and highly cherished by Mr. M A Jinnah and Dr. Mohammd Iqbal would gravely suffer a big eclipse.

The potential roots for providing the scope and opportunity for the Blasphemy Law introduced during the rule of Zia-ul-Haqq and also for Shia-Sunni conflicts and other sectarian conflicts are lying in the Objective Resolution that late Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan (the Prime Minister of Pakistan) introduced in the Constitution of Pakistan as the basic constitutional structure (i.e. as the Preamable of Constitution) for the State of Pakistan. It has undermined freedom of thought as prescribed in Quran and practised by the Prophet and as highly cherished by Jinnah and Iqbal. The consequences have been grave and highly dangereous and so it also bears a lesson for the Muslim political parties and other parties working in Arab Spring countries while we all welcome and support very much the Spring for the establishment of democracy and equal fundamental rights for all human beings.

Now, in the 3rd category which is that of the modernist (liberal Muslims), Saleena Karim has divided it into two parts : (a) believers in secular-Islam synthesis and (b) the other group:

"treats secular Islam as a hybrid between conflicting ideas and seeks an "Islamic state" which is neither religious nor materialist, nor secular-Muslim. Jinnah best fits the latter of these [two] categories."

The very fact that Saleena Karim formulates the phrase "Islamic state" in inverted commas shows that though the word "Islamic" before the word "state" may be used in speeches lectures, and in articles and books, but if it is not mentioned in the Constitution or in its Preamble, on account of the fear that the mentioning of it may lead to sectarian conflicts among Muslims, it should not create any misunderstanding. This is because putting into practice the principles of freedom, justice, equality, fairplay and brotherhood (which are the basic universal principles of Islam which indicate the spirit of Islam) is more important than mentioning the word "Islamic" and then forgetting its universal import in practice.



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Secular Jinnah
& Pakistan:
What the Nation Doesn't Know

CheckPoint Press, Ireland
Paramount Books, Karachi


Book Data:
6.14 x 9.21 inches
xiv, 318 pages
Includes bibliography
and index

What is the Munir quote?


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